Michell Zappa is the founder of Envisioning, a technological foresight institute. The institute is built by a network of academics, designers, hackers, coders and educators and is based on a database of technologies. This enables them to study the underlying patterns of technological change. His work aims to illustrate the implications of accelerating change and facilitates a higher level of awareness about our relationship to technology. Understanding the direction of progress can help people see where they are going and make better decisions.
The future is counterintuitive, and technology has a disproportionate effect on how it unfolds.
Technological transformation can often seem chaotic, generating unpredictable change in unexpected places. By looking at the underlying forces behind technology it is possible to develop a better understanding of how change might unfold. All technological development is built on previously existing technologies, a principle referred to as combinatorial evolution. Every innovation process is constrained to working with existing developments, and understanding this pattern can yield a deeper understanding of future possibilities. From a historical and economic perspective, technological development can be downright predictable, obeying patterns over decades.
Michell’s presentations explore historical and future technology from the perspective of these underlying patterns. Fundamental principles such as exponential change indicate how information technology has become the dominant economic force of our age. However, there are always unintended consequences: the unpredictable yet guaranteed side-effects caused by accelerating change. And these unintended consequences might be the developments that we see first.
Michell further examines the relationship between science fiction and science fact, indicating how imagination instructs innovation. Also, the role of humanity needs fundamental consideration. Michell believes that the combination of humans with machine intelligence will be the most successful future augmentation.
Michell is born in Stockholm and raised in São Paulo, he is fluent in three languages. He has lived in five countries and worked in over 30. Previously he oversaw design and platform development at Trendwatching in London and Amsterdam. He founded Envisioning in 2011 after publishing a series of speculative infographic. He then devised Envisioning’s initial methodologies and research frameworks. Today he is mainly responsible for global partnerships.
He has collaborated on projects on all continents, and frequently consults on technological strategy by setting up future scenario’s. He works for government agencies, corporations and academic institutions and his work has been featured in WIRED and TASCHEN.
Next to builing Envisioning, Michell is responsible for the technology thinking module at THNK School of Creative Leadership in Amsterdam. He frequently lectures about patterns of technological transformation at major events. He is a member of the Association of Professional Futurists and the World Future Society.
Through his work, he helps people prepare for and build better futures.